By COLlive reporter
Over 300 people turned out to The Doubletree Hilton in Deerfield Beach, Florida, to join the Jewish Recovery Center’s 8th Annual Retreat.
The Retreat spanned a three-day weekend where world-renowned Rabbis, therapists, recovering addicts and their families joined together for inspiration and support.
The Shabbaton was an upscale event, at a beautiful venue with high-end catering and a Melave Malke concert with singers Yeedle, Meilich Kohn and Eli Schwebel. The extravagant feel was by design, explained the organizer Shliach Rabbi Meir Kessler, “so people can feel proud to be in recovery and be excited to come.”
“As a mom, what I really appreciate the most is the warmth and sense of family the JRC provides for my son,” said Shani, the mother of a recovering addict. It’s really remarkable, they look out for each other, are so supportive, and keep Judaism as one of the focuses of healing and recovery.” Her son added, “I really feel that it’s crucial for my recovery to have this family around.”
Another member, Ori, related, “Friday night dinners at the Kesslers kept me connected to Judaism when I was in treatment. While I couldn’t even be there for myself, they were there for me; they showed me the love I didn’t even know existed. There was no judgement, just love, smiles and warmth, and I’m forever grateful.” As another former addict exclaimed, “You couldn’t find this love anywhere else in this country.”
VIDEO: Participants who agreed to be interviewed about the retreat
The JRC and its founder, Rabbi Kessler, offer year-round support and referrals for addicts and their families, as well as providing a host of other essentials for the Jewish recovery community in South Florida. But JRC member’s talk about the warmth and love they feel as a part of the JRC community. They don’t even call it a community, they refer to it as family.
This year’s annual retreat was indicative of all of that. The camaraderie of all the participants and the love and positive energy was palatable in the air. The collective spirit was one of growth, both as a person and as a Jew. People shared honestly and vulnerably about their hardships and travails as well as the way they overcame them. Their apprehension and fears as well as their hopes and aspirations. And as promised, there was no judgement, no shaming and no guilt-tripping. Everyone was accepted and made to feel understood.
“Instead of feeling like they were being told what to do, those who came to the weekend felt like our speakers could really relate to them,” said Rabbi Kessler. “To see that a rabbi can share his own struggles normalizes recovery which is very empowering and what this event is designed to do.”
Rabbi Dov Greenberg, Director of Chabad at Stanford University, referred to it as “a collective spiritual hug, where one does not feel judged for what they don’t do, but is encouraged and inspired for what they do do, leaving them with a sense that they have a deep spiritual potential to be the person they can and will be.”
“One of the things that we try to do is to normalize recovery,” said Rabbi Kessler. “For years and years and years, substance abuse has been taboo, with recovery meetings held in the basements of churches. We have taken recovery out of the basement and brought it to the Chabad house where we do AA meetings.”
“This is something our community needs desperately, it’s invaluable,” said Rebbetzin Devorah Kaplan of Ft. Lauderdale’s Downtown Jewish Center. “We need to continue to support it and not feel shame about it.”
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, although he retired from public life this past summer, addressed the crowd via live video hook-up from his home in Jerusalem. He spoke on how the recovery world, and the 12 step program it’s famous for, has helped him in his own life. Although, he mentioned, he is not in recovery, following the 12 steps “has enabled me to implement so much of what I learned through Jewish Ethics.”
“It’s not just for addicts,” he said, “we need these principles whether we are addicted to anything or not, to be a good true human being.”
VIDEO: Recovery, Pesach, and Why it should matter to YOU – Highlights of Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski’s Speech at the Jewish Recovery Center’s 8th Annual Retreat
To find out more about the Jewish Recovery Center, visit them online at JewishRecovery.com or call (561) 717-8136.